Sunday, June 15, 2014

Coming out to my parents

I finally got up the courage to talk with my parents about SSA. I've hesitated telling them because I didn't want them to worry or have to deal with the messiness of it. I have also been nervous about just the initial moment of how to bring it up and and what thoughts would go through their mind. They are currently on a full-time mission, so I couldn't tell them in person and could never find a way to start the conversation on a call. I finally sent my dad the message below this week. He shared it with my mom and they both e-mailed me to tell me they love me and will talk more about it when I'm ready. It is a relief to know that I can now have more open conversations and be completely honest with them.

I'm sorry for being so unresponsive recently. I have been stressed and needed time to work through things before talking. I want to open a conversation about something that is hard to talk about but that is a source of a lot of my stress. I'm sorry to do this through an e-mail. After you read this, I hope that we can talk later about any questions and concerns you have.
I experience same-gender attraction. This includes deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. I did not want or choose to have these feelings and I have tried for a long time to overcome them through my own faith and effort and working with counselors and priesthood leaders. At this point, I do not expect to be free of this challenge in this life. I believe that this is a trial that I need to learn to live with. I don't know what you will feel about this this. I'm sorry to have to talk about it now and sorry for not talking about it for so long. I don't want you and Mom to have to worry about me.
I am blessed to have been born and raised in a good family, in the gospel, and in a comfortable situation. Feeling same-gender attraction has not been easy to deal with, but I’m thankful to have this trial rather than so many others I could have had.
Some of the things that have been most difficult or distressing for me include:
- Dating is frustrating and marriage seems unlikely because I am not able to have a normal romantic relationship with a woman. It is stressful to have people trying to set me up with women or wondering why I am not trying to date more.
- I have not shared my feelings and experiences with many people, which has created distance in friendships and family relationships and made me feel isolated and lonely.
- Reconciling my faith and feelings has sometimes been difficult and has forced me to critically examine my own beliefs. Especially as the church has been involved in political issues related to rights for LGBT people, I have heard intensely hurtful things from many of my friends, church members and church leaders. Some of the arguments made rely on incorrect stereotypes and characterizations and serve to stigmatize, exclude, and shame people who feel same gender-attraction or gender non-conformity. It is painful to have people I love and respect say things that I know are not true or not speak up when people are being mistreated and hurt.
I don’t know why I have these feelings. There was no event or choice in my life that caused it and nothing abnormal about our family or my upbringing.
When I was young, I hoped that my feelings were a phase that would go away naturally or that I could overcome through faithfulness. I have always tried my best to follow the commandments and be faithful and to resist and repress feelings that are not in harmony with the gospel. I have read a lot about therapeutic and spiritual responses to same-gender attraction. I have read everything the church has produced on the topic and a lot of other material from other resources. It would be nice to find a simple solution, but the reality is complex and discouraging.
I don’t know what is in store in my future. I will continue to live my life according to the gospel and the truths that I know--this will likely mean that I am single for the rest of my life, but I am open to whatever God has in store for me. As I’ve tried to do what is right and put my trust in God, things have always worked out and I have faith that will continue to be the case.
This experience has forced me from a young age to search the scriptures and to develop a personal relationship with Heavenly Father. My testimony of God and of the Atonement of Jesus Christ has grown because of the things I've experienced. My compassion and love has increased for other people who are different or hurting for whatever reason, even reasons I don't know or understand.
I hope that you and Mom will feel comfortable talking about this with me and asking questions you have. I look forward to being able to get your counsel or suggestions. I hope that you will also learn more about the issue if you feel unfamiliar with it. There are many helpful resources available. I have included some links below.
Again, I'm sorry for being distant and for not talking about this sooner. You and Mom are the best parents I can imagine and I am so thankful for your example and unconditional love.
[El Veneno]


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

If they really knew me

My single's ward is pretty cool here. I've been going to activities and starting to feel like I know people. Tonight I was surfing Facebook, looking up some of the people I've met. I found the profile of one guy who I've kind of made friends with. He's skinny and socially awkward like I am but just a really nice, good guy. He's one of the guys who I think could maybe become the type of friend I'd hang out with outside of ward activities. So I'm looking at his interests and favorite movies and stuff and thinking, "yeah, we could be friends." Then I looked at his groups and his top group is "No More Pornography-- The mission of No More Pornography is to eliminate both the use and spread of pornography throughout the world." That sounds like a great cause and everything so nothing against the group, but when I saw that on his profile, it hit me what a really good guy he is and how different I am from him and the first thought in my mind is: "If he only really knew me..." And suddenly I'm scared to make friends.

I sometimes feel like a poser. I miss having friends who know me and most of my issues and are still great friends. Maybe I'll eventually get to that point with people here. For now though I'm playing the part of the goody goody BYU grad. It's not a total act-- it's part of who I am, but it's not the whole story. Unfortunately it's just not really kosher to introduce yourself in Mormon circles like "Hello I'm [real name] and I struggle with serious moral / emotional / psychological problems." Actually that's not really kosher anywhere... except maybe support groups. I'm trying to be myself here. I'm trying to be honest with people. But I kind of have to be my best self if I'm ever going to make friends with the upstanding, churchy kids I need to be friends with. I'm just afraid of making friends and then a couple weeks/months down the line having them ditch me when they discover I'm not everything they thought I was. I wish I could give them some sort of disclaimer explaining that I'm slightly broken.

Writing this makes me realize how irrational this is because A) I can't think of a friend I've ever had ditch me cause I'm not perfect and B) even if that did happen I'm pretty sure I could get over it. It is something I worry about though.

Things are actually good right now. I'm trying to really become more like the goody goody guy I sometimes pretend to be. It's a process. I'm somewhere at the beginning but I'm moving forward. All this stuff takes time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

10 points for AZ

After two sedentary weeks, I decided to hit the roads tonight for a run. It didn't take long to remember why I hate running in AZ. Even two hours after the sun's gone down, the air temperature is still in the triple digits. I could feel the warmth steaming out of the pavement. Within minutes, the heat had overwhelmed my body. Like an overheating car, my systems were beginning to shut down. A couple painful miles later I was back on my driveway red faced and sweaty.

While I was cursing the heat I tried to think positive things about Arizona. Here is what I came up with:

1. No towels necessary. I'm dry in less than a minute out of the shower.
2. It's zionized. If I ever miss hearing people call each other "brother" and "sister" in the grocery store, I only have to drive 30 minutes to Mesa, where 10 percent of the population is LDS. Mesa is also home to one of the church's most beautiful temples. I'm part of a great ward which is part of an entire stake of singles wards. There's always something churchy going on. A new Institute building is opening at ASU at the end of the summer.
3. The ASU Supply Chain MBA program is ranked 5th in the nation. My job will pay for me to get my MBA. Now I just need to ace the GMAT and get my work schedule regularized....
4. Sweet escapes. Five hour drive or $59 flight to San Diego, LA, or Vegas. Three hours to Mexico or the Grand Canyon. Two hours to Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, where there's forests, red rock, and icy cold creeks and the temperature is 10 or 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix.
5. All the fine eats- Costa Vida, Cafe Rio, Chipotle, and Qdoba are just some of the good freshmex places in the valley. There's also In-N-Out, Church's Chicken, Pita Jungle (amazing humus), and tons of smoothie and shaved ice shops.
6. Mexiculture. Brown people are everywhere here. There's good spanish music on the radio. I get to speak Spanish most of the day at work.
7. Perfect swimming weather.
8. A decent place to live. Ok, really where I live is lame compared to the room I had in By a Thread's Taj Mahal, but it could be a lot worse. I've got a big bedroom, my own spot in the garage and my own bathroom in a brand new house. My roommate's a little strange (I think he has Asberger's syndrome) but he's hardly ever here and when he is here he's just in his room chatting with babes on so it's a nice quiet place to come home to.
9. There's not a lot better than driving at night (like after 11 pm) with all the windows down, sunroof open, and Rihanna blaring on the radio, jamming gears on the smooth rubberized asphalt highway. It's a sweet feeling.
10. It's only temporary. I told the people at my job I'd be here for 18 to 24 months. Only 16 to 22 more months to go.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Old e-mail 4/23/06

Third and final in a series of e-mails I wrote last year to a new friend who found me through my blog:

"Happy Sunday. The weather's been amazing this weekend. Hopefully you've been enjoying it. I've been studying for finals and trying to pack up my apartment. This was my last weekend ever in college and I ended up not going out at all any night. I am lame. But I kind of felt like being lame this weekend--well and trying to catch up a little on school.
Yeah I am jealous of you and the girl situation. I think I said that I've dated girls and stuff but just never really felt like I was all there. Problem for me is the girls who like me are never attractive to me (yeah I know that sounds shallow on my part) but it's hard enough thinking romantically about any girl but it would sure help if she were hot... And I know the argument is that you get to know a girl and then she becomes attractive. That's true to a point, but I've gotten very very close to several girls (mostly the girls I dated and didn't get physical with, like no kissing) and I just don't feel attracted. Sucks that I compare it to guys and with guys it's a whole different story.
I guess the idea of changing those desires seems so impossible that I don't see the point in trying. It would just be frustrating. But then I want a marriage and family and stuff so I guess I need to look at the whole picture and just realize it's a sacrifice--which means giving up one thing for something better, and I could give up the passionate element for all the other things I want... too bad passion is such a strong drive and so hard to just tell to go sit in the corner and be quiet.
I try to be strong on this, but really I'm mostly just spinning my wheels, counting the days, waiting for time to pass and hoping that maybe some girl will just come sweep me away. I'm waiting for a miracle pretty much. I forget that I have to be the one to make it happen.
My best bud just started dating a girl from our dance class like 2 weeks ago (he's SSA). They're holding hands and kissing now and it reminds me that I can do it, cause I've done it before.
About having this weakness. I agree with you. Like you, I've been amazingly blessed and really my life would have been a cakewalk without these desires. Even with these desires, I still have it good. But it keeps me humble. It breaks me and makes me really have to rely on the Lord. Too bad I'm kind of stuck in the broken stage and not completely letting the Lord heal me quite yet. Eventually.
Feeling gay is tough to reconcile because really a lot of the feelings I have are so good and Christlike, like being able to love more profoundly and listen to people and care, but then there's this evil twist to them and that's what is frustrating.
Since the last e-mail I have been doing a lot better with reading the scriptures and praying. Church was great today and I did my hometeaching. My roommate is out of town so I took all the initiative myself and it felt good. It always feels good to do what I know is right.
So you called me brave. Ha! Thanks. I'm really not brave at all. I only talk to other SSA guys pretty much. I didn't meet them with bad intentions, just to have people to talk to. It's been good. But I'm probably as scared as you are to tell anyone else.
The thing about me and my friend who is depressed... yeah. It's not cool and I don't know what to do. I just got off the phone with him and he's all messed up. It tears me up in inside. Don't feel like you have to solve that issue, I just wanted to vent a sec.
About telling about yourself and stuff, no worries. I totally understand and honestly, it's nice having an anonymous outside opinion. I'll tell you as much or as little about myself as you want. Anything you tell me is safe too. Meeting other SSA guys is scary at first. It can open you up to bad stuff, but there's a lot of good from it too. I don't regret for a second meeting other guys and I've only found it easier to deal with stuff since then. But for me, I needed it. I was at a point where I felt very dark and alone. I was spending hours chatting with creepy old men online and even had almost met some just to experiment. Our conversations were dirty and I didn't even like it at all, I was just starved for some sort of connection with someone. So I made a conscious decision to meet good ssa guys around here. I've met my best friends ever. We're totally normal. Three of us go to the gym together, we ran a half marathon together, we go on double dates (yes with girls), have dinner, whatever. With my two closest friends we have kept it very under control-- I mean it isn't something that needs controlled, it's just naturally good. So, I guess what I'm saying is if you ever do need to talk in person I'm here for that too. But take it at your speed. You know what's best for you.
Anyways, yeah I consider you a friend too and that's cool. Write whatever whenever. I'm heading to Mexico and Arizona for a couple weeks on Wednesday then I'll be moving up to SLC and living with my grandma for about a month so internet access will be spotty but I'll find a way I'm sure.
[el veneno]"

Old e-mail 4/20/06

Second in a series of e-mails I wrote last year to a new friend who found me through my blog. This is my response to questions he sent me:

"Good questions and good to hear a little about you. You seem to be at a good point about all this--honestly probably a lot better than I am. Of course you're still going to have questions and worries, but the big thing is just that you can go on with life and not let this thing smother you. Sounds like you're doing that and that's sweet.
So you like girls. Lucky! Have you dated a lot? I really haven't. I've had 3 quasi-girlfriend things for a couple months each and I've really only kissed two girls... I like it ok but it creates all kinds of emotional issues.

So for whatever it's worth, I'll answer your questions.

First of all, how long have you been admitting to yourself that you are dealing with SSA?
First time I realized it I was cub scout. First time I realized it was here to stay was freshman year at BYU when I had my first girlfriend and doing mission prep and stuff. I still kind of hoped it would go away or get easier or something through some miracle on the mission. The mission was fine but I came home with raging hormones... didn't really deal with it for a year more, but I think I was admitting to myself that it was serious by then. Then about a year out, I chatted with some people online anonymously and started chatting with people in provo/orem and stuff just to get the LDS perspective. I ended up meeting a guy who was transferring to BYU and we talked a lot, I felt comfortable with him (not in love or anything) so ended up telling him my real name and stuff. When he came out here we were buddies (about two years ago). We were both the first gay guys the other had met. Meeting him is what really solidified it. Being around him and knowing he was gay and all that and everything I hated about myself but seeing that he was a really good guy made me realize that maybe I could be gay and be a good guy too and it all kind of clicked.

Second of all, who have you talked to about it? Did you talk to church leaders, family, friends? This is where you have me beat. So that guy was the first guy I talked to. We were real close (like hanging out every single day) at first then decided to not spend so much time together. I felt lonely and kept talking to guys online and got more daring and met a couple of other people, none of whom were the type I'd want to be friends with. Anyway, eventually I did meet some other like-minded individuals and I'm still really good friends with that first guy so I've told all those guys... and pretty much that's it. One of my friends' sister's knows about me and a couple of straight girls, friends of my friends. I haven't told my parents and I haven't ever told a bishop or anything. I've never had anything serious to confess and I've just never felt the time was right to talk to my parents but I know I need to tell them... Have you talked to yours? How'd you do it? Most of my friends have told their parents and they've all had good experiences. All of my friends are trying to do what's right even if they've messed up in the past or whatever. That makes it a lot easier for parents to accept. Most of my friend's parents have just kind of listened then never brought it up again or just once or twice a year and they say their relationships haven't changed... except maybe not so much pestering about marriage.. so I don't know what I'm scared of. About bishops, because the church has no clear policy on what is and what's not expected of SSA men in the church (well broadly yes but specifically no), I think it's very important to talk to the bishop to find out for yourself. So again, what am I scared of? I don't know.

Third of all, if you have talked to people about it then how many people know what you are dealing with right now. For instance, is it public knowledge to everyone in your classes and stuff. In general how has that been for you?
So pretty much no one knows, not even my roommate who is a long time friend. I act pretty straight (whatever that means) and I just try not to make a deal of it. Some people I know have made a point to tell tons of people, like everyone they trust. Some people need that. It changes the dynamics of the relationships though and I really don't want to do that. The main reason I want to tell people sometimes is just kind of to shock them and help them realize that all their preconceived ideas about fags are wrong.

What have been your biggest challenges in dealing with this by yourself (or with leaders, family, etc...or just with your other SSA friends?)
Biggest challenge-- the fact that there are just so many questions. I just try not to think about it but sometimes it kind of hits me in the face. My strategy right now is just that I don't want to act on my feelings. I would love to be able to get married eventually, so I'll just do my best. If I stray or stumble or whatever I'm always going to come back. That's my strategy....
Other hard stuff... falling in love with a guy and then finding out he likes me too and that all he wants is to mess around and he'd be willing to give up his faith and everything for a couple minutes of fun... and yeah, that's tempting.
Having friends who are depressed and suicidal. I care about them but I really just can't help them... well I can, but not as much as I'd like... especially when that friend is the one who loves you and all he says would make him feel less depressed is being able to be intimate with you.... yeah, drama. I don't know, there are more, but I'll tell you about them later.

Do you think about marriage (obviously 'yes' because you can't go to BYU and not think about it) and is it something you are considering?
Yeah I do. I want kids. I want someone significant in my life. I want a house that smells good and Christmas trees with presents and neighborhood bbq's and school plays and all that. But I also want to really love my wife and give her my whole heart.. I know it's possible but not right away. I still go on dates and stuff. One last weekend and two the weekend before but I take it slow. At this point I have a lot to work through. If I find someone willing to work through it with me, sweet. If not, I am convinced that I can be happy single for a long time.

Where do you feel like you stand spiritually right now?
Spiritually, this is sad, but I'm not too good--not bad considering, but about as bad as I've ever been. I stopped reading my scriptures sometime this semester and only really pray when I think about it. I believe in God and the church mostly but I have all kinds of doubts about Joseph Smith and everything... I've been to the temple once this semester when I used to go every week. I used to be really really good about all this stuff. I still go to all three hours of church and do my hometeaching and all the outward stuff. I just kind of adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" policy with God. I don't ask God for help with my questions and he doesn't tell me... I've been thinking about this a lot recently and wondering what went wrong. It's not just gay stuff, actually hardly at all. It's just that this is my last semester and I have two jobs (three now) and keeping busy with friends and stuff I'm just so tired. I've been slacking on everything and I guess the religious stuff is just part of that....
Anyway, I know I probably sound all lazy and dirty now... but I'm not. I have a 3.8 at BYU, my scriptures are marked like the best of them. I read the BoM for the first time when I was 12 and have read it at least once a year since. I've had spiritual experiences that I can't deny and I have an awesome family who I know prays for me and basically I just don't think I could ever leave the church. For all the questions I have and all I do to just try to forget everything I really can't. And yeah, writing this makes me realize that I should read my scriptures at least a little before I go to bed.
Ight, I'm guessing you didn't even get this far... this is mostly for me anyway. I should think of some questions for you... later. For now, write back when you can. What do you do with yourself? School? Work? Hobbies?
[el veneno]"

Old e-mail 4/17/06

First in a series of e-mails I wrote last year to a new friend who found me through my blog:

"Good to hear from you so quickly. Honestly, my blog is probably not the best place to get to know me just cause the nature of blogging is that we write all our deepest and darkest crap that we wouldn't really say to people's faces---but then maybe that's the best way to get to know me. The blogosphere honestly is full of of some crazy ideas though, so don't think that's the way you've got to think or anything. Sounds like you're doing something that works for you so keep at it.
About meeting other SSA guys, I totally understand. I met my first SSA friend a little less than 2 years ago almost on accident. That gave me a taste of how cool it could be to have people to really relate to and honestly it gets kind of addicting... it's a new fight just to make sure that I don't spend all my time with SSA friends and ignore my straight friends. But it is good, and I wouldn't do it differently. My last two years at BYU have definitely been my best just cause I have finally had people to really be friends with. Pretty much all the SSA guys I've met at BYU have been nothing but supportive and helpful as I've tried to scrape my way through this crazy life. Now I look back and wonder how I ever did it alone.
Anyway dude. So you go to BYU? Good luck with the last couple days of school and finals and stuff.
Keep in touch,
[el veneno]"

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Reach Out

"In the anguishing process of repentance, we may sometimes feel God has deserted us. The reality is that our behavior has isolated us from Him. Thus, while we are turning away from evil but have not yet turned fully to God, we are especially vulnerable. Yet we must not give up, but, instead, reach out to God’s awaiting arm of mercy, which is outstretched 'all the day long'"

- Neal A. Maxwell, “Repentance,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 30